Google Bolsters Enterprise Cloud Offerings with Google Drive for Work

Google this week rolled out Google Drive for Work as part of a number of enterprise-grade enhancements to its cloud services.

Announced at the Google I/O event, Google Drive for Work gives organizations unlimited end-user storage, native Microsoft Office file handling capabilities and added auditing and security controls for IT pros.

Google's promise of unlimited storage for end users is a noteworthy advance in the cloud-based storage competition. Microsoft is one of the vendors caught short by the announcement. For instance, in April, Microsoft had announced that its own cloud-based storage service, OneDrive for Business, had expanded its storage capacity from 25GB to 1TB. However, OneDrive for Business still has some limitations associated with SharePoint, including the ability to sync files only up to 2GB max; additionally, SharePoint libraries have sync limits on up to 5,000 items. Microsoft is still working on expanding those limits.

Google Drive for Work is an upgrade from the company's Google Apps for Business service and is priced at $10 per user per month. Google Apps for Business will continue to be offered at $5 per user per month. Google Drive for Work includes new features aimed at addressing business needs, including:

  • Unlimited storage for end users, including the ability to upload files of up to 5TB in size to the Google Drive cloud-based storage service.

  • Access to Google's productivity software, including Docs, Sheets, Slides, Hangouts and Sites.

  • Built-in Google Quickoffice for Docs, Sheets and Slides, which allows users to open and edit Microsoft Office documents in their "native" formats using Google's Office Compatibility Mode technology. The technology works online and offline.

  • File encryption, which persists in the transport from end user to Google's servers, between Google's servers, as well as at rest in Google's data farms.

  • IT pro controls, including e-discovery via Google Apps Vault, file deletion capabilities, the ability to set app install permission controls for end users, the ability to customize the Google Drive experience and a forthcoming "audit API" for developers.

  • An uptime guarantee of 99.9 percent, along with 24x7 phone support.

  • Security and compliance support for "SSAE 16 / ISAE 3402 Type II, SOC 2-audit, ISO 27001 certification."

The Quickoffice document handling capability is currently available using the Google Chrome browser or on Android devices. Google plans to add the Quickoffice document handling capability to iOS devices in a later release.

Android Work
Google this week outlined its own concept for managing Android devices under the so-called bring your own device (BYOD) to work scheme. The details of this new "Android Work" approach are explained in this Google video.

The new device management capabilities of Android Work are based on the next release of Android, called "L." Google is providing new Android Work APIs for developers that will enable these BYOD capabilities.

With Android Work, Google is envisioning an apps provisioning scheme for Android devices that will support both company-owned and employee-owned devices. Android Work will enable users to have both their personal apps and provisioned work apps on an Android device. IT pros will be able to create a secure work profile on an Android device to handle the provisioning. The apps will be vetted through the Google Play store. However, IT pros will be able to set permissions for installing apps from the store. IT pros can even buy apps in bulk from the Google Play store for distribution to end users, according to the video description.

Google Apps Improvements
On top of the new Google Drive for Work and Android Work offerings, Google added improved document handing and collaboration capabilities to its Google Apps productivity suite. One of the improvements makes it easier to handle Microsoft Office files in their native formats.

Google admitted in a blog post that its past Google Apps for Business offering made it "a challenge" to handle Microsoft Office files for users lacking access to Google Docs, Sheets and Slides apps. Google has updated those apps to eliminate that problem by building in the capability to edit Office files without first converting them to Google's document formats. Office files can be edited in native document formats via Google Drive, Chromebook or Gmail after a Chrome extension is installed.

"Starting today, you no longer have to worry, because both the web and mobile apps for Docs, Sheets, and Slides let you edit Office files -- without conversion -- so you can now edit and send back files in their original format," the post explained.

However, if users want to collaborate on Microsoft Office documents, then the files still have to be saved first into Docs, Sheets or Slides document formats.

Google also added a new "suggested edits" feature to its Google Apps. This feature allows collaborators on a document to suggest possible edits to be accepted or rejected later. The suggested edits don't have to be accepted or rejected during a specific collaboration session.

Google Cloud Data Flow
Also at the Google I/O event, Google announced its replacement for MapReduce, which is a programming model that Google championed for handing large data sets on clusters, typically for so-called "big data" analyses. The replacement, known as Google Cloud Data Flow, is described as "a fully managed service for creating data pipelines that ingest, transform and analyze data in both batch and streaming modes."

Google Cloud Data Flow can be used "for interactive SQL in BigQuery," for analyzing "a real-time stream of events" and to gain "insights from datasets of any size," according to a Google blog post. Google indicated that the service is language agnostic but its first software development kit released for developers is based on the Java language. It's possible to run the Cloud Data Flow in a local development environment and then scale it up into production by tapping cloud storage data, according to Google.

Other additions for developers include a new Cloud Debugger tool for debugging applications, a Cloud Monitoring tool to detect app performance problems and a Cloud Save tool for enabling Android apps to sync data without using push notifications (currently in private beta testing). Google also added three back-end module templates to its Android Studio integrated development environment, including Java Servlet, Java Endpoints and App Engine templates.